As thousands of well paid bureaucrats begin to convene in Glasgow, Scotland for their 26th meeting (COP26) to discuss how to take money out of the richer countries and place it in the coffers of the less developed countries as penance for having an advanced society (based on fuels which emit carbon dioxide), it is hard for this writer to take any of it seriously. My dear friend and colleague Robert Lyman took an accountant’s calculator to the numbers tossed around.
In July 2021, a “pre-conference” was held to discuss financial issues in anticipation of the major climate conference to be held in Glasgow in November. Barbara Creecy of South Africa spoke on behalf of the developing countries, and stated that the developed countries (i.e. those included on Annex II of the list of UN Climate Convention parties) must increase their annual financial support to the developing countries to at least $750 billion per year.
There is no agreement here; on how the contribution responsibilities should be divided among the contributing countries or on how the recipient countries would divide the funds.
However, I thought that it might make a useful thought experiment to calculate how much the United States and the average American family might have to pay if the developing countries’ demands were met.
First, we have to make some assumptions. It would take a few years to scale up to the $750 billion per year total. Given the urgency that climate campaigners always demand, it could be that the goal would be to reach that target by 2030. There are no published statistics on the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the Annex II countries, but the US is often estimated to have about 35% of the group’s GDP, and GDP is the standard commonly used by international organizations to determine proposed funding levels. The US population is now about 333.5 million, and a reasonable assumption is that it will be about 337 million by 2030.
Based on these assumptions, the US share of the cost of the $750 billion in 2030 would be US$262.5 billion. That would equate to US$780 per person, or US$3,120 for a family of four. This amount would be paid every year until the climate goals were met, which is the indefinite future.
To portray that figure differently, US$262.5 billion is about the same as the US federal government’s combined discretionary spending on health and income security programs in 2020.
The developing countries have also resisted the United Nations’ proposals that climate aid recipients report how the climate aid is spent. In their view, such accountability represents a new form of colonialism.
The forthcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow will be asked to decide on whether climate aid to developing countries will be significantly increased, but not necessarily on the target amount. While it is highly unlikely that western countries will agree to meet the developing countries’ demands, the tens of thousands of climate campaigners in Glasgow will try to embarrass them for failing to do so. Of course, the climate campaigners and the media who support them do not have to worry about from where the money would come—Taxpayers do.
Pardon me if I can not take any of this seriously. It is true that President Barack Obama wrote them a check for $500 million, and Biden may well do the same. This has nothing to do with climate or science of any kind, just wealth redistribution, Robin Hood-fashion. It is a form of extortion that is not likely to end, but will also amount to a little more than poor folks’ tax monies spent to fly overpaid bureaucrats to far-away resorts to party and act like they are actually doing something constructive.
Robert Lyman is an economist who spent 37 years working his expertise in the Canadian government.